Critics say Meow Wolf’s Phoenix location could drive out small artists

New Mexico

As Meow Wolf works to build a new exhibit and hotel in Phoenix, online critics say the move will actually make it harder on local artists and galleries there. However, New Mexican artists say the people in Phoenix don’t know what they’re talking about.

“It’s like Disneyland for the brain,” says Lari Tiller Howell.

“I was blown away. It’s really something else,” says Ric Speed.

Ric Seed and Lari Tiller Howell are Albuquerque artists who say Meow Wolf inspires them to be better at their craft.

“My wish that I had started art a lot earlier,” says Tiller Howell.

Last month, Meow Wolf announced it will open a new exhibit and hotel in Downtown Phoenix, but the announcement drew criticism.

In an editorial posted on Hyperallergic, author Erin Joyce says Meow Wolf coming to Phoenix could “dislodge local artists from their Downtown and South Phoenix studios as more development happens.”

It goes on to say the project will raise prices, making it difficult for small galleries to exist.

Tiller Howell sees the concern but says the city of Phoenix is in control of that.

“Phoenix the city has to be very supportive of the artists and do rent control and that sort of thing to make sure that people aren’t priced out of the neighborhood,” she says.

Speed, meanwhile, says Meow Wolf and art galleries are on two completely separate playing fields.

“You don’t buy it and take it home and put it on the wall. You go there. You experience,” says Speed.

Representatives for Meow Wolf declined an on-camera interview but posted their response to Hyperallergic on Facebook.

They say they care deeply about the concerns listed in the article. They also mention Meow Wolf currently employs more than 400 artists on a salary with full benefits, contributes half a million dollars a year to local non-profits, and does artist outreach focused on diverse populations.

Representatives for Hyperallergic did not respond to our request for an interview.

A spokesperson with Meow Wolf says they plan on hiring local Phoenix artists when they open in 2024.

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